The Reacher Influence


I’m clearly addicted.  I blame my sister.  She has always loved the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child and so when one came my way, I tried it.  Didn’t like it at all, I said, not confessing that I read it in one sitting.

Give me a chance, sis.

Give me a chance, sis.

Then I saw another free Jack Reacher novel at the gym.  (Did I mention that I belong to the most perfect gym ever? They give away free books there.) The second book I read was ONE SHOT — That’s the novel that the recent Jack Reacher movie is based on–the one with Tom Cruise.  The movie my sister refuses to see because Tom Cruise is 5′ 6″.

Reacher is 6′ 5″.  Reacher starts off around two-hundred pounds or so, but after enough books he’s up to two hundred and fifty pounds of killing muscle.  Reacher grinds men’s bones to make his bread.  He also lives off diner food.

Then there are the women.  They are slender, they are pretty.  They  tend to loan Reacher their cars on sight.  Then they sleep with him.  They are either incredibly competent or they have small, yet adorable children and someone has been incredibly cruel to them.

Reacher never ever owns any possessions until after a long time he compromises and begins to carry  a travel toothbrush.

Reacher was made for the reader–male or female–who has a lotta kids, a lotta mortgage, a lotta burdens and obligations. Reacher was made for the reader who leaves a strip mall on Saturdays with a car full of stuff feeling empty and weird.

The brilliance of Lee Child is that he knows how to keep you turning those pages. Child sacrifices plausibility for the sake of action, lots of action, coming at you fast, fast, fast. “Character is king”– and Reacher is nothing if not a character.   Reacher walks with total confidence, he analyses crimes with total confidence.  He matches his arrogance against the arrogance of the bad guys and he comes out on top by playing dirty as much as he possibly can.

Reacher is a funny one.  Reacher’s peferred method of starting a fight is to give a sudden, unexpected crushing head butt.

Killing FloorEver get frustrated with good guys pansy-footing around? Are you thinking as you read Don’t tie the bad guy up–he’s just going to get away? Do you ever want to chant Just kill him–just kill him! to the good guys?  Reacher is your kinda guy.  Reacher does not tie up bad guys.  He does not hand them over to the cops.  Why bother? The bad guys are very dead by the time Reacher is through.  Reacher does not aim for truth or justice, he aims to maim and kill.

Yet he’s not like Dexter–he’s not a serial killer full of self-loathing.  Reacher likes himself just fine.

Character is King

Character is King

Is it any wonder, then, that being in a profession which loves alpha heroes that I’ve noticed my own hero is suddenly displaying some alarming Reacher-like qualities? My hero is suddenly a lot less apologetic in chapter three.  He is more preoccupied with business.

Scarier still, he’s perfectly willing to revel in the lust of a super sexy moment with my heroine, but afterwards he’s no longer immediately sucked into a deep pool of emotional commitment.  Pre-Reacher my hero was denying the bond.  Now he isn’t denying it–he doesn’t feel it. He is perfectly happy in the moment they have together and with her and how it all went. His thoughts don’t go one tiny bit beyond that.

As Reacher once said, “Feelings? What are those?”

It made me shiver when I read that. I also wanted to laugh, because he’s being honest.

So readers, what should I do? Impose a No Lee Child Reading ban while I’m finishing up my novel?

On the other hand, isn’t it good when characters come alive and have a will of their own?  Maybe the Reacher voice is a reality check against my man-loving “isn’t every man at heart really a good guy and a feminist if he’s being rational and not scared or something” mind set.  I mean, I want my guys to be good guys–sure.  But I want them to be guys.

Hmmmmmmmmmm.

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12 Comments

  • Mary Hart Perry
    March 11, 2013 at 9:22 am

    I am also a closet Reacher addict. True confession. My husband reads them like eating popcorn, in bed. So they’re within reach when he’s done with them. I sometimes wonder if a little of Reacher sneaks into my Victorian-era heroes. Yes, hmmmmmmm….

  • ellaquinnauthor
    March 11, 2013 at 9:43 am

    I think they can be guys and be good guys as well. Not every Alpha male has bonding issues. This is one of those times where you may have to not read an author until you finish the book. I have an author like that. Her voice some how creeps into mine. Great post. I tweeted.

  • cmkempe
    March 11, 2013 at 10:18 am

    I haven’t read any of them, but they sound like fun. Lee Child was at Harrogate last year. I see Reacher has his height! Wow. Tall man.

  • madelineiva
    March 11, 2013 at 10:45 am

    He IS tall…I think Liz Everly can testify to that. ;> I guess it’s just that he’s his own person, good, bad, or indifferent. I think I haven’t been letting my heroes be like that. Arg.

  • Elizabeth Shore
    March 11, 2013 at 10:54 am

    I’ve been thinking about checking these books out ever since I read a really interesting Lee Child interview in Writers’s Digest. And now with your endorsement I clearly meed to get crackin’ on those books! Great post, Madeline!

    • liz everly
      March 11, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      Yes, he is tall. I stood next to him at Bouchercon. I was probably the shortest person there and he was definitely the tallest! His books don’t appeal to me at all, but I’ve gotten out his first Jack Reacher novel from the library to see what all the fuss is about. I’ve not started it yet. But I will. Several people have told me I should actually study Lee Child’s writing

      • Mary Hart Perry
        March 11, 2013 at 2:44 pm

        The thing is, he comes from TV writing, so he does have a really great handle on making his writing visual and active. He says he had to learn how to transition from writing for actors and the screen–where the audience could see what was happening–to a medium where we writers need to create those visual images on a page for our readers. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him at first. I’ve tried writing screenplays, and it’s a whole other animal. Having learned to write novels, I found it really hard NOT to provide descriptions of people and settings, which you either don’t do at all or do minimally for screenplays.

  • liz everly
    March 11, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Ah-ha. And his book just moved up in my pile. I’ve always wanted to take a screen writing class, as just a way to sort of stretch myself and my writing, not because I want to actually DO any screen writing.

    • cmkempe
      March 11, 2013 at 5:52 pm

      Liz, are you going to Bouchercon this year? I’m planning to come back for it after Bloody Scotland and maybe spend a month in the States.

    • madelineiva
      March 11, 2013 at 7:36 pm

      It’s SO Hard!

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